By Eric Loeb, AT&T Vice President of International External Affairs

While many people may not have heard of it yet, there is a critically important global meeting happening later this year in Dubai.  Known as the WCIT, the World Conference on International Telecommunications is crucial because it will revise the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), which essentially lay out the ground rules for the global interoperability of networks and exchange of telecom traffic between borders.

The WCIT, which falls under the umbrella of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), will mark the first time the ITRs have been revised since they were established 24 years ago.

The process for revising the ITRs began back in 2006 when it was decided by the Plenipotentiary Conference that the ITRs needed to be reviewed.  AT&T was there six years ago and we have been working hard with the United States Government and industry throughout.  As one way to help people understand this important process, on behalf of AT&T, I have been working as chair of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Task Force on Internet and Telecoms Infrastructure and Services (ITIS) along with the 120-country business community membership of the ICC as it prepared its views on successful ITRs.  Just last week, the Task Force released a paper outlining the ICC’s views and recommendations to ensure that global telecom markets continue to grow and develop.    

Revising the ITRs will require great care.  It is critical that we maintain the pro-competitive model that has positively transformed global communications for the past quarter century.

The ICC’s key recommendation to ITU Member States is that the revised ITRs focus on high-level strategic and policy principles relating to the provision of international telecom services.  Given the rapid pace of change in the global marketplace – where new technologies and ways of communicating are ever-evolving – any treaty-level focus on specific regulatory and technical issues must be avoided. Out of date policies could indeed stifle innovation.  The ICC also recommended that the ITRs focus on principles of international cooperation, rather than mandating new intergovernmental regulation.

As we get closer to the WCIT, the ICC and its members will make further contributions to help foster meaningful and productive discussions for all stakeholders. In fact, this week, several of us are attending the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in Geneva and, in addition to the crucially important international spectrum planning decisions at the WRC, we are already talking with delegates from around the world about their priorities for the WCIT.  Along with my colleagues, I will be blogging regularly on important developments as we all gear up to convene next December in Dubai.  Stay tuned.

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